Skateboarding made its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Olympics, growing in recognition as a sport and popular after-school activity. For the youth of Carpinteria, however, skateboarding has long been their way of unwinding and having fun.
Taking to the streets and empty lots of the city, skateboarders have lacked a designated space to spend time and learn tricks. This is changing now for the first time in more than two decades.
Last month, the Carpinteria City Council officially approved construction of the Carpinteria Skate Park. With an emphasis on its benefits for local youth, the City Council members voted unanimously in favor of completion of the skate park project.
The park is a project that has been in the works for more than 20 years, according to Julia Mayer, board member of the Carpinteria Skate Foundation. The need for a skate park was realized in the late 1990s with a temporary skate park in the town’s train station parking lot, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the Foundation was formed with an eye toward building a permanent in-ground skate park. They worked on securing permitting and other municipal tasks until 2021, when the campaign to build the park relaunched with full momentum.
Designed by Dreamland Skateparks, the 30,000-square-foot skate park will be located on city property adjacent to City Hall at the site of the old Thunderdome Roller Hockey rink, with 20,000 square feet of skateable terrain, and the remainder serving as a rest area with amenities such as picnic tables and benches. Through having both places to skate and to rest, Mayer hopes to create a kind of intersection between the different members of the Carpinteria community.
“[I hope] what we’ll see is people walking their dog on the bluffs and sitting down and watching kids land tricks,” Mayer said. “They’ll be like, ‘Dang, that’s rad.’”
The Carpinteria Skate Foundation raised around $1.2 million total, more than $750,000 of that in 2021 alone. Funds mostly came from generous community members such as Suzanne Duca, local companies like Deckers, and fundraisers by virtually every small business in Carpinteria, according to Mayer.
Uncle Chen Restaurant, a local Chinese eatery, even rebranded their egg rolls as “skate rolls” over the summer and donated all proceeds to funding for the Carpinteria Skate Park. Such examples of overflowing community support were essential in the process of getting the park built.
Though the construction bid for the park came in at a substantially higher-than-anticipated $2.1 million, Carpinteria City Council elected to fill the remaining $700,000 funding gap to get the project rolling.
Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura has been a vocal supporter pushing for the completion of the skate park, possibly due to his career as a national BMX champion in the ’80s. “He mentored me through the whole process,” Mayer said.
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A major motivating factor behind the park’s creation is that in Carpinteria, there are not a lot of recreational spaces for older children to spend time, especially without a car or the means to bus to Santa Barbara. There are also no places where they are legally allowed to skateboard.
According to Mayer, there’s a huge skater population in Carpinteria, with three or four spots where they go to skate. However, skaters often get the police called on them in these places, which include a local parking lot and shopping center.
“Generation after generation [of kids] have been mislabeled by our community members as truants or trespassing or bad kids,” Mayer said. “I really hated that… It’s a mischaracterization of a whole generation of kids.”
Growing up, Mayer was always interested in skateboarding, an activity that wasn’t typical for women at the time. “Girls invited to be with skateboarders were like accessories,” she said. “It used to make me feel very left out.” In college, she realized the hobby was meant to be enjoyed by everybody, and now wants to give everyone access to it with the Carpinteria Skate Park.
“Kids deserve and need a place to go and be creative and feel accepted and valued,” Mayer said. This became especially true during the pandemic, with the realization that childrens’ mental health was being impacted.
There’s also a culture of generational mentorship cultivated by skate parks, according to Mayer, and this is an important part of helping kids’ self-esteem and growth.
Mayer is currently in the process of setting the groundbreaking date for the Carpinteria Skate Park. There are plans to have a groundbreaking celebration, potentially with live shows and music using the skateable stage built into the park.
She is excited about the completion of the project, which is set to be around January 2023, and sees it as evidence of the power of local, community change. “I keep telling every kid I talk to, ‘If you see that your community needs something, you can advocate for yourself, and work toward it,’” Mayer said.